March 2012

Inspiring pinsSo Craftcation has left me with the desire, inspiration, and motivation to start my own crafty business. It’s something that has been in my head a while. I love crafting, I love hand-crafted items, why not give a go at something I love? But it’s such an overwhelming prospect that I never knew where to start. And now I feel like I do, so I’m going to give it a shot.

I’m always wary of talking about my goals. It’s a scary thing to put it out into the world that you want to accomplish something, because it makes it your process and your struggle very public. And, as a dear friend of mine always says “You can’t get better and look good at the same time.” It’s hard to look stupid/ignorant/silly in public. It’s one of my biggest struggles as an actor, because I don’t want to look stupid, so instead I am boring; and it’s just one of my biggest struggles in life.

To play down that possibility of public failure, I tend to talk about my goals like they don’t matter or like they are not a big deal. I tend to frame my progress and my successes like they don’t matter. I don’t want to be seen as boasting or thinking too much of myself. It’s a big problem for me, because I even talk about myself that way as an actor. “Oh, yeah, I’m in a show,” I say, “but it’s not a big deal. I’m not a very big part. I’m not very good.” And I talk about myself that way as a singer. “Yeah, I sing. I’m okay–there are people better than me. I just do a little thing with my friend, and we sing and play. It’s not a big deal, but we’re performing on Tuesday night.”

Yeah…that doesn’t really convince people to want to come see me act or sing, or to hire me to do those things. And I talk about the crafts I do and the things I make in the same way. Which, call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s going to convince people to buy my things if I can’t talk them up and make them sound great. And they are great. I’m good at what I do. I am a good actor, I am a good singer, and I make good things. Yes, everyone can always get better, but I am good as I am right now. So I can’t be afraid to really set goals, and to be honest about what I am doing. I can’t say I want something and that it doesn’t matter and it’s not very good in the same breath.

With that in mind, I am being brave and putting my goals out there, right now.

Within 3 months I will:
1. Intern with a business to gain skills I need in marketing, branding, etc.
2. Prototype at least three potential products
3. Read up on SEO and Etsy and web-selling and bookkeeping, so I feel prepared once I launch my store

Within 6 months I will:
1. Work a craft fair in someone’s booth so that I can get a handle the best way to do those things (if anyone wants some free labor for a fair, let me know!)
2. Prototype at least 2 additional potential products
3. Take a sewing class or two to improve those skills
4. Have my workspace organized

Within a year I will:
1. Have a business license, fictitious business name, and a business bank account
2. Have launched an Etsy shop and a website with my own domain name
3. Be selling stuff for realsies

So yeah, there they are. My goals, out in the world. With no negative self-talk included. And if anyone has any feedback, thinks I’m missing something, or desires to assist me, please let me know. And by the way, I have accomplished one of these goals already. I will be interning with Steph Cortes of NerdJerk, serving as her social media and marketing intern. It’s gonna be awesome!


Everyone dancing at the awesome 80's party

Everyone dancing at the awesome 80's party

So I meant to blog Craftcation every day, but last night after the awesome 80s party, I was incredibly exhausted. I got home and all I could do was sleep. But that’s okay, I just have more to write about today. Overall, Craftcation was an absolutely amazing experience. I feel like my life has been changed forever. I met so many amazing and supportive people and learned so much about starting a business. I feel so completely and utterly inspired by the new crafting techniques I’ve learned, and I finally feel like I know where to start when it comes to starting a business. And I have so many amazing ideas for things to create and for ways to connect and network.

Needle-felted cupcakeSo Day 3, I started with yoga again. That was the last time I did yoga all weekend, because I unfortunately twisted my ankle Friday night and after yoga on Saturday, I was in too much pain to do it again. But I’m glad I went to the Saturday morning class, because it was amazing. Then I took a needle felting class with the Urban Craft Center. I made a cupcake! I had never needle-felted before, but I completely and totally love it. I bought several colors of roving, needles, a book, and foam from the UCC and I am all about adding that to my crafting repertoire! All of that stabbing is so therapeutic. And it’s such an easy and yet versatile craft, so I can make so many different kinds of things.

I then took a class on Financial Basics with J. Boomer Butler, a CPA. He had a lot of good perspective on the financial aspects of business and it was a good overview of the necessary financial steps. It was incredibly helpful preparation for the Accounting and Bookkeeping Class that Lauren Venell taught. I had no idea at all that accounting was so complicated for a business. I definitely will need to hire an accountant to file my taxes when I start my business. I attended two other non-crafty classes on Friday. I went to a panel on copyright protecting your ideas (and not stealing other people’s ideas) with Jenny Hart, Steph Calvert, and Nicole Stevenson. It was really important to me, because I really want to make sure that I’m doing individual and unique work and I want to make sure that what I do is protected and this panel gave me perspective on both. I also went to a class on creating a wardrobe that will reflect me, hosted by Nicole Longstreath. I have my own style and everything, but this had some good pointers on increasing my wardrobe options in a meaningful way. I think my clothes-buying will be a little more focused from now. My last Friday class was a Garment Construction Bootcamp with Christine Haynes. I finally learned how to sew darts properly and how to put in an invisible zipper. I taught myself to sew and I’m very unskilled at it, so it’s really nice to have a skilled seamstress show me how to do things. I think this means I need to take an actual sewing class. I’ve tried to learn from books before, but just having a demonstration made all the difference in my ability to actually know what to do.

Saturday night was the aforementioned awesome 80’s dance party. Good music, silly costumes (although I was apparently the only one for whom 80’s means Siouxsie and the Banshees more than Madonna), and just all around fun.

And today was the last day. I actually got teary about the whole thing being over, because I had felt so welcome and comfortable all weekend. I felt like these were people who understood me. There were mentoring roundtables–where I got some good SEO advice (and then I took an SEO class with Se Reed where I basically learned that I need to learn a lot more about SEO), advice on pitching and media interviews from Gustavo Arellano and Evan Kleiman, and some really good advice on networking and partnerships from Susan Coss of the Eat Real Festival. My last class was an embroidery class with Jenny Hart. It was amazing. She actually taught me how to do a French knot, something I have never been able to successfully do before. So that was amazing, in and of itself.

Before I left Ventura, I also stopped to do some shopping at SuperBuzzy, where I bought more needle-felting supplies, and Anacapa Yarns for some delicious Misti Alpaca lace and Tosh Merino Light. So now I’m back home, my head brimming with ideas and feeling so inspired and creative and like I have direction. It was an amazing weekend. I can’t wait for next year.

The Book I made in Amy Tan's class

Day 2 of Craftcation has been a total blast and absolutely incredible. I only took one crafty class today; the rest of the day was spent in more business-oriented workshops, which were a little more mentally taxing, but completely wonderful and informative. And I loved the crafty class I took. It was a workshop on making mini-books with Amy Tan, who has her own line of scrap-booking materials (including the mini-books themselves). So the workshop was basically on creating a mini-scrap book. I have never really been a scrap-book type person, but I did have a lot of fun doing the cover and pages in the class. I’m not a converted scrap-booker, but I love her line enough that I may just have to find some way to use it. And it was nice to just be able to be creative and stick stuff on paper.

And now for the business classes. I took a class called Starting Your Own Crafty Business, hosted by Nicole Vasbinder of StitchCraft–which is probably the class most applicable to my situation. It really was geared to those of us who have not turned our hobby into a business and gave a lot of great advice on how to approach that, including things like getting a business license, a DBA, a re-seller’s license, and tips on record keeping and handling sales tax. It really gave a good look at the basics anyone needs to know before starting a business, and now I feel like I have a clear path to follow should I decide to ever start a business.

And then there was an absolutely eye-opening workshop on pricing for my goods taught by Lauren Venell. And man, it is surprising how many crafters undercharge for their labor. It really drove home for me that there is no way that I can make money selling the things I love to make most (pretty lace shawls), because they are way too labor intensive and I would have to charge way more money than anyone sane person would pay. I kind of figured this all along, but it was good to have a confirmation. But it’s just as useful to find out what won’t work, especially if you can find it out before you invest too much into it.

Then I took two great classes on displaying your product. Linsi Brownson of Redefine Home gave a very thorough class on how best to display your product a retail setting, a craft-fair setting, and online. She was great and gave good examples on how to play to the strengths of each type of venue, while still maintaining a consistent image. And tying into that, Megan O. Anderson gave a great rundown of the 10 most common mistakes made in blog photographs and how to fix them. Some of the problems, like bad composition, can really only be solved with practice, but she laid out the basics of what makes a photo have good composition in very clear terms, which was helpful.

On top of the classes, the rest of the day was likewise awesome. I had a sunrise run on the beach, two sessions of yoga, a happy hour full of good networking (something I am really pushing myself to do more of at this conference because that is definitely my weak point in life), and a pleasant solo dinner on the adorable patio of a cute (and tasty) Italian restaurant. Plus I made that cute button ring you see in the photo on the left in a Make and Take hosted by SuperBuzzy. I know you’re jealous.

I am so inspired by being here at the Craftcation Conference. I woke up early this morning and left at 6am so I could beat the traffic. When I arrived in Ventura, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hotel was literally on the beach. I get to do yoga on the beach every morning that picture on the right is the view from my window. Pretty gorgeous. I registered and receive the great goodybag (shown below), just packed full of awesome things from the conference sponsors including gluten-free cereal, Bust magazine, scissors, pro-biotic chocolate, a monkey plush, T-shirts, glue, postcards, and a water bottle.

My goody bag

I am indeed a crafty-ass bitch

I went to four great workshops today. Two were with the Urban Craft Center and involved making actual crafts. One was on making a personalized apron. I got some good advice and practice on using iron-ons (and how to create my own with my printer), freezer-paper stencils, and fabric paints with stamps. The other craft workshop UCC ran was on embroidery. I learned three stitches, which I already sort of knew how to do–running stitch, stem stitch, and backstitch. We worked on this great kitschy fabric with old-style clocks printed on it. I kind of love that little square of fabric. And there was a also really cute little “take and make” hosted by Super Buzzy at the welcome dinner tonight where I got to make a little flower pin.

My apron

Kitschy embroidery

Flower pin

The other two workshops were on the business side. One was a panel with three great women (the founder of the Urban Craft Center and the two founders of the conference) about how to grow your business “beyond the kitchen table”, that is hiring help, getting a brick and mortar space (if you decide that’s the way you want to go), and a little bit on what to outsource (i.e. should you hire a payroll service or a marketing service). This is obviously not something immediately relevant to me right now, as I do not have a business, but if I ever do, these women provided me with some invaluable information. The other workshop I attended was hosted by Etsy and it was all about making your Etsy shop the best you could–picking the best keywords for you items, your niche, etc. I do want to open an Etsy shop sooner rather than later, so this was really valuable information.

After the workshops, there was a welcome barbeque and keynote speaker. It was held at the WAV, a really cool working/living space for artists. The food was delicious, there was music, adorable hand-made decorations, a photobooth, and a great keynote speaker–Evan Kleiman of Good Food. She spoke so well about craft and what it means in the world. And when she said that she hoped that the resurgence of the DIY movement would cause American to be a producer again, and cause us to make things, people clapped and cheered.

And that is why being here is so inspiring. It’s great to learn new techniques and ways to improve my craft, but more important is the community. Everyone is really supportive of each other. They are genuine in their good wishes, advice, and complements. There is an emphasis on trade of materials and skills, which is really heartening, because a lot of people are growing their businesses, and the ability to trade for services is so helpful when money is tight in a new business. And there is a general undercurrent of a desire to change the way things work. We don’t have to buy things from corporations who exploit the people of the developing world. We can make our own successes with our own hands.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

I used to write about politics a lot, on a different blog back when I was in college. I had more time then, and I felt full of energy and ready to take on the world. Then I got completely burned out. I got tired of arguing over things. That’s not to say that I can’t tolerate opinions that aren’t my own, but it’s incredibly frustrating to write about something like women’s reproductive rights and never have the discussion move beyond “Sluts should close their legs!” or “What about choice for the menz!” when I was talking about forcible sterilizations or they hypocrisy of the Hyde Amendment.

But I really have to talk about the current climate in the United States regarding reproductive rights now. According to the Guttmacher Institute a full 55% of women now live in states that are hostile to abortion rights and a record 92 different provisions restricting access to abortion were passed at the state level in 2011. You can see from the above graph, that women who live in abortion-friendly states, but the “middle-ground” states are shrinking.

2012 has not fared much better. Every time I turn around, it seems like another state is trying to force women to go through some kind of waiting period or mandatory ultrasound or to outlaw abortion at earlier and earlier dates. Worse still, Arizona is attempting to pass a law allowing doctors to withhold information from pregnant patients, all in the name of preventing abortion. This means that even if the woman has a condition that could severely disfigure or kill her, or if her fetus has severe defects, the doctor would have no legal obligation to tell her. The irony, of course, is that the same people behind this law are people who argue in favor of mandatory ultrasounds and forcing the patient to view the ultrasound and listen to a doctor’s description of said ultrasound because “a woman should have all the information about what she is doing, so she can make an informed choice.” I guess informed choice only applies to the choice to not have an abortion. Informed choice apparently isn’t important if the woman might die unless she has an abortion.

And I’m not going to get too much into the idea that employers should be able to control what an employee’s earned healthcare covers, except to say that healthcare is compensation for work you do as an employee. It is wages, so the idea that your employer should be able to deny you coverage for something that is against their personal beliefs is ridiculous. It is really the equivalent to an employer objecting to you spending your wages on alcohol because they are Mormon. I actually have a lot of thoughts about the folly and hypocrisy and abuses of religious exemptions, but that’s another post for another day. I’ll just leave the contraception situation as an example of yet another attack on women’s health and reproductive rights.

Look, this is going to sound simplistic, but women are fully realized, autonomous people who are capable of make their own decisions about what they want. They don’t need an ultrasound to know that they are pregnant now and won’t be pregnant after they have an abortion. And sometimes, like in this case the law is particularly cruel, and rubbing salt into an already incredibly painful wound. But even if the woman isn’t terminating a wanted pregnancy, sometimes ending an unwanted pregnancy is a difficult decision (and sometimes it’s not. Women are all different and have different feelings about things–imagine that!) and putting more emotional and financial hurdles in the way is dick thing to do. And even if the ultrasound changes a woman’s mind and opts not to get an abortion, this does not change the situation that made her seek one in the first place. She will still have the same financial, emotional, medical, relationship, work, and/or physical troubles that made her not want to be pregnant in the first place.

I trust women. I trust women to make their own medical decisions about reproduction and pregnancy and how to handle that. It’s been said over and over again, but it has to be repeated until people get it, but the only people who should be involved in a women’s reproductive health decisions are the woman herself and her doctor. Everyone else should just butt out.

I started an amazing shawl a few weeks back. It’s a beautiful mohair wrap and I’m making it in pink Rowan Kidsilk Haze, a mohair and silk laceweight blend. It’s super soft and a yarn I’ve been really loving working with lately.

I’m also working on a Horai Scarf in some Rowan Kidsilk Haze stripe in a purple, blue, green, pink, and grey colorway. I really like how it’s turning out, especially because it’s knit holding two strands together. The two strands don’t always match in color which gives it a nice effect as you can see below.

That’s a pretty extreme closeup of the scarf, but it’s really the only way to see the pattern, because mohair has that fuzzy halo. But, like my wrap, it’s super soft and nice feeling. The only problem with knitting with mohair is that it sheds. I wear a lot of black shirts and it makes me look like I have a cat or something, because I end up covered in fuzz. Knitter problems.

I’ve also signed up for a knitalong for a mystery shawl based on The Little Prince. I haven’t started yet, even thought I got the first clue. But once I do, I will post pictures. I’ve never done a mystery knitalong (which is where you get the pattern in pieces and don’t know how the finished project will look), so I hope I don’t make any mistakes.

It’s been a while since I’ve written. And what an awful way to start a post, but I’ve truly been busy with the show and whatnot. Now the show’s been closed, and I’ve had a while to get myself back together and re-centered. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting, going out and seeing some bands, playing the ukulele, and not much else.

But I’m very excited, because this weekend I’m going to the Craftcation Conference. I’m taking several workshops on new crafting methods and also some on how to start a business. I don’t know if I’ll ever actually have time to start a business, but it’s been something in the back of my mind lately, so the more information I can get, the better off I will be if I eventually do go that route.

I’m also starting an acting class at one of the professional theatre companies here in a few weeks. I’m excited and nervous for it. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an acting class, but it’s going to be a really great opportunity to grow and improve my skills.

And I’m very excited because I got cast in a show that is actually equity. It doesn’t go up until September, so I have a while, but I’m very excited to be playing Dory in Merrily We Roll Along.

So that’s it in a nutshell. I’m back and I will be updating more often starting now!